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POSTCRIPT | Doha climate talks fail to deliver on urgent issues, hit developing countries hard

Activists display placards inside the Doha convention center where climate talks ended Saturday with what some parties described as a "weAk" deal. PHOTO BY IMELDA ABANO, INTERAKSYON.COM

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DOHA, Qatar –After two week-long exhausting climate change talks, 194 nations, including the Philippines, have agreed on a deal extending the Kyoto Protocol for an eight-year period to be implemented by 2020. But the deal left many disappointed as it failed to deliver urgent issues: deep cuts in emissions by rich countries; finance to help poor countries cope with the impacts of climate change; and climate-induced loss and damage.

The climate talks closed Saturday night (Doha time) with drama, confusion and plenty of unhappy delegates who called the talks a “weak deal.”

The deal, dubbed the “Doha Climate Gateway,” failed to produce a binding agreement, obliging 35 industrialized counties to cut emissions by 5.2 percent below 1990 levels.

The 1997 Kyoto Protocol (KP), which expires this month, was never ratified by the United States, which said it will not participate in the second commitment period. Canada, Japan, New Zealand and Russia were non-committal to the second commitment period, pointing to nthe fact that the major emerging countries like India and China would have no binding targets to cut emissions. The European Union, with its 27 states, and the Australia backed the new accord.

Russia, however, had objected to the passing of the deal as well as the extension of the KP.

On the issue of finance, the deal would postpone decisions until 2013 on how to scale-up developing countries’ demand of US$100 billion a year by 2020.

In the 2009 climate talks, rich countries committed to provide $30 billion for 2010-2012 period. They also agreed to the creation of the Green Climate Fund that would raise $100billion a year by 2020, to fund adaptation programs of developing countries. This year, developing countries want $60 billion from 2013-2015, but rich countries balked at this level.

Divisions emerge 

Many of the developing countries have rejected the “Doha Climate Gateway,” saying that it produced a “very weak deal” to put the world on track of what science had indicated was necessary in order to limit temperature rising beyond 2 degrees Celsius.

In what she calls a “frustratingly slow process,” Philippines’ head of delegation Mary Ann Lucille Sering said the final outcome of the summit fall short of the needs of countries vulnerable to the brunt of climate change such as more frequent droughts, intense storms, and floods.

‘Pablo’ resonates in meeting

Just as the climate talks came to a close, Typhoon Pablo, which swept through the Philippines early this week and killed hundreds of people and left thousands homeless, turned back towards the country.

“A final agreement here means another year has concluded. But it does not change the course that the Philippines is and will continue to be a vulnerable country,” Sering, Vice-Chair of the Climate Change Commission, told  Interaksyon.com. “Hence, we need the support that will allow us to improve our capacities to cope with the impacts of the changing climate, such as funding for mitigation and adaptation.”

Earlier in the week, developing country delegates and civil society groups applauded Sering and Philippine negotiator Naderev Sano as they delivered an impassioned speech before the delegates appealing for an “urgent climate action” as Sano the grim impact of the catastrophic typhoon Pablo.

“The biggest challenge now, therefore, is how to prepare for extreme weather events and other slow onset impacts like increase in temperature. The Philippines and other vulnerable countries will have to dig deep into our pockets to spend for adaptation,” Sering lamented.

With the KP as the only remaining legally binding instrument for developing countries to reduce emissions, Sering said it will be a challenge to prevent warming “since the pledges put forward remains weak.”

“The lack of penalty for countries like Canada and Japan which pulled out of the KP, and without comparative mitigation actions, diminishes the integrity of the process and can set a bad precedent going towards 2015,” Sering explained.

Sano, in his closing speech, said that the Philippines “registers its reservation for the instrument adopting the amendments to the KP due to the very low ambition inscribed in its annexes, for continued loopholes and the failure of developed countries to provide for clear finance for developing countries and  means of implementation including technology and capacity building and a focus on adaptation. The Philippines registers its reservation on the decision adopted under the Conference of Parties (COP).”

Even the African group of negotiators led by Emmanuel Dlamini said that developing countries wanted to see progress in Doha, adding that stalling the talks for many years would be devastating to vulnerable countries to cope with climate change impacts.

Process is only hope

“This process is our only hope as we are likely to be doomed because of weather-related events. The countries delaying the talks are not really fulfilling their obligations for mitigation and finance,” Dlamini told reporters here.

Minister Kiere Keke of Nauru expressed his disappointment and pointed out that the Doha Climate Gateway “is little more than a gateway to a long way.”

“The lives of our people and the future of our countries are on the line. Finance and mitigation are deeply deficient. We are not talking about impacts on how comfortable people will live, but whether our people will live,” Keke told the delegates.

Keke’s dismay was echoed by Pa Ousman Jarju from Gambia, who said the deal “is not balanced and does not sufficiently address with urgency” the climate crisis.

“We are highly disappointed for the lack of details on pledges of finances. There is lack of ambition in decision particularly on adaptation and mitigation,” Jarju said.

Fire extinguishers for a planet on fire

Many civil society groups had hoped that the Doha climate talks under the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) would move decisively towards a global agreement to combat climate change.

“Once again, governments have done far too little to drive down dangerous greenhouse gas emissions anytime soon. The planet is on fire, but our governments are trying to extinguish the flames with watering cans,” said Celine Charveriat of Oxfam International. “Our politicians spend more time quarrelling with each other than fighting our common enemy, climate change.”

WWF’s Global Climate and Energy Initiative leader Samantha Smith said, “Some developed countries have made a mockery of the negotiations by backing away from their past commitments and refusing to take new ones. And to make matters worse, it was only a handful of countries who held the negotiations to ransom.”

Action Aid’s Harjeet Singh described the Doha climate talks as “unacceptable,” saying that the outcome of the deal is not enough for developing countries to cope with climate change.

Rich nations will say important progress has been made, but at this point they are nothing more than snake oil salesmen. They have done too little, too late to protect the world’s poor from the harsh realities of climate change,” Signh said in a statement.

Emilie Johann of the International Alliance of Catholic Development Agencies lamented that even the highlighting of the devastation left by Typhoon Pablo in the Philippines “did not stir the countries to take urgent actions.”

“Developing countries were forced to accept an empty outcome. Governments might be able to live with this agreement, but people and the planet cannot,” Johann said.

Moving on

The Conference President Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Attiyah admitted that the outcome of the negotiations process itself was a “miracle to reach.” He added that the process was made “as transparent as possible and very sincerely.”

"I must admit that this meeting is a lot complicated. You need energy to deal with it. But this Doha Climate Gateway will be of benefit to all,” Al-Attiyah said.

UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres said that the details of the negotiations are now moving on to the next climate talks to be held in Poland.

“Countries are working on means and ways to increase ambitions. Countries are ready to engage to reach a legally binding agreement by 2015 and to be implemented by 2020,” Figueres said.